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The difference between Mid-century and Mid-century Modern 

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Mid-century and Mid-century Modern (MCM) are two design styles that originated in the previous century. These styles have significant overlap, which makes sense when you consider that Mid-century Modern is a further development of the Mid-century style. Although they appear similar and the difference primarily lies in the naming, there is indeed a difference between these two design styles. The term Mid-century is generally used to denote the general design style that emerged from the 1930s and lasted until around 1960. However, when people refer to Mid-century Modern, they specifically mean Mid-century designs created after the Second World War around the year 1945. The Mid-century style underwent a transformation after the war, resulting in different characteristics for furniture designs. 

What are the biggest differences between Mid-century and Mid-century Modern?

The biggest difference lies in the furniture made before and after the war. Mid-century is the design style that emerged in the 1930s, while Mid-century Modern began its development only after World War II. The biggest differences between these styles include: 

  • Color usage 
  • Material 
  • Ornamentation 

Color usage  
Pre-war Mid-century designers often opted for subdued colors considered practical, such as greens and browns. Post-war, designers dared to play with more colors, incorporating additional hues into their designs. The Mid-century Modern movement was influenced by Scandinavian designers who embraced a more colorful approach.  
 
Material  
Mid-century designers primarily used natural materials like wood, leather and metal. Pre-war choices mainly focused on functionally designed furniture with minimal wood usage. It was only after the war that designers began incorporating steel, glass and plastic into their designs, distinguishing Mid Century Modern furniture. Post-war Scandinavian influences also introduced the use of different fabrics and organic shapes into the designs.  
 
Ornamentation  
Pre-war Mid-century designs often featured more ornamentation and intricate details, emphasizing ornamentation and a certain luxurious style. In contrast, Mid-century Modern expressed a desire for a modern appearance. Post-war, new homeowners demanded furniture with a more creative and modern look. The possibility arose to manufacture furniture differently with new technology. These pieces needed to be practical, functional, and elegant. The Mid-century Modern style was also heavily influenced by the Bauhaus style. This led designers to avoid decorations in new designs, emphasizing simplicity and minimalist design. With Mid-century Modern, the priority shifted more towards a simple and efficient design rather than ornamentation and flair. 

What are the most important properties of both Mid-century and Mid-century Modern design styles?

Both design styles Mid-century and Mid-century Modern share some common characteristics. The key features of both design styles are: 

  • Functional and simple 
  • Warm and neutral colors 
  • Clean and simple lines 
  • Organic and fluid shapes 
  • Mix of materials 
  • Low and wide profiling

What do the styles Mid-century and Mid-century Modern have in common?

What these styles have in common is that Mid-century and Mid-century Modern furniture have a functional appearance, emphasizing practicality and user-friendliness. The furniture had a sleek and minimalist design to give them a modern appearance, which was in high demand at the time. Generally, excessive decorations were avoided, and organic, fluid and simple lines were often employed. Furniture was often set low and wide, creating a sense of space and openness in living rooms and offices. Additionally, designs often incorporated a mix of materials to create contrasts and add interest. Neutral colors like white and black were frequently used, along with warm colors like brown, green, orange and ochre.

What are iconic Mid-century furniture styles?

There are several Mid-century furniture pieces that remain popular to this day and serve as the basis for designers’ creations. The ten most iconic Mid-century modern furniture styles are: 

  1. Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman: This is the most famous and iconic furniture piece from this period, created in 1956. It’s a comfortable leather chair with a curved wooden frame and matching footrest, known for its comfort combined with sleek design. 
  1. Wishbone Chair: Also known as the CH24 chair, designed by Hans Wegner in 1949. The chair has a characteristic Y-shaped backrest, with the seat made of woven paper cord. A true Danish design. 
  1. Tulip Table: Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1950, the distinctive single-legged round tables are easily recognizable. The leg transitions smoothly into the tabletop, giving them a smooth and sculptural appearance. 
  1. Noguchi Coffee Table: The Japanese designer Noguchi is responsible for the coffee table with an asymmetric top and a distinctive wooden base. The glass top floats on the wooden structure and resembles a triangle. This design dates back to 1947. 
  1. Barcelona Chair: You have undoubtedly seen this famous chair before. This lounge chair is a combination of leather and steel legs. This chair was designed in 1929 and was first exhibited at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, hence the name. 
  1. Herman Miller Eames Molded Plastic Chairs: This 1950 design is from the well-known design duo Charles and Ray Eames. This chair is made of plastic and features a shell designed primarily for ergonomic comfort. 
  1. Egg Chair: This egg-shaped chair was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 and is inspired by the shape of an egg. You can instantly recognize this chair due to its distinctive design. The seat has a cocoon shape, and the chair is usually swivel mounted. 
  1. Marshmallow Sofa: This striking couch was designed by George Nelson in 1956. The cushions of this couch are round and separate from each other. Often, the cushions are upholstered in different colors and connected by a metal frame. The shape of the cushions really resembles marshmallows. 
  1. Diamond Chair: This design by Harry Bertoia from 1952 stands out with its simplistic welded steel wires forming a geometric pattern. This pattern resembles a diamond, hence the name. Often, a loose cushion is used on the seat. 
  1. Panton Chair: A unique chair made from a single molded piece of plastic in an S-shape with a futuristic look. The chair was designed by Verner Panton in 1960 and was considered revolutionary for its time. 

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